Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Doctors support turbines, criticize fossil, nuclear options

Orangeville Citizen
August 09, 2012

Freelance Reporter

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is describing Health Canada’s study of health impacts from wind turbines as “superfluous (and) a waste of time and a waste of public funds.”
“It’s curious Health Canada has taken an interest in studying the health impacts of something as benign as wind energy when for years health and environment experts have been cautioning about the negative impacts of fossil fuels on human health,” Farrah Khan of CAPE says.
CAPE says a 2010 Ontario study “reviewed 40 years of scientific research on wind turbines and human health.”
It noted that the report by Chief Medical Officer Arlene King report concluded that “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
“She also found that ‘community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns about wind farms.’ This puts any physiological impact from the very ordinary sound of a windmill into serious doubt.”
Community involvement was at the heart of the plan for what has become Dufferin Wind Power, originally totally owned by a group of Melancthon farmers and 401 Energy of Markham but now owned largely by a Chinese company.
Much of the criticism levelled by opponents of that development centres on foreign ownership, but the alleged health impacts haven’t been forgotten. Persons affected say they are genuinely ill since the advent of other wind farms in the area.
A question asked at a recent information meeting was, in effect, “If the turbines didn’t cause the illness, why did we become ill after they went into operation?”
A multi-disciplinary study commissioned by the Canadian and American wind energy associations recently found that the most serious effect on nearby residents was “annoyance.” And the degree of annoyance was related to how the person felt about turbines prior to development.
On the other hand, according to CAPE, “Canada’s health community is shocked at the growing evidence of illness connected to the fossil fuels industry. In 2009, the Alberta Cancer Board reported cancer rates in Fort Chipewyan, downstream from the tar sands, were 30 per cent higher than expected.”
CAPE quotes the Ontario Clean Air Alliance as saying that in 2009, coal plants in the province “were connected to 246 deaths, 342 hospital admissions, 406 costly emergency room visits and almost 123,000 illnesses such as asthma attacks.”
While turbine health impacts continue to be debated, CAPE says the health impacts of coal are a certainty.
It is also critical of the health risks posed by nuclear radioactive waste. “Spent fuel remains highly toxic and radioactive for thousands of years. But nuclear reactors, even in their normal day-to-day operations, emit radiation. A 2008 German government study found an elevated risk of leukemia for children living within five kilometres of the country’s 16 nuclear plants.”
Although preferring wind energy, CAPE acknowledges that any form of energy production inevitably has some negative impact on the plane, noting that wind turbines are not perfect, generate some sound and their appearance is not pleasing to everyone.
“But coal-fired generating stations, nuclear power plants and the tar sands all contribute to serious illness.
“We’re comparing a minor annoyance from the sound of blowing wind to the severity of cancer, asthma and brain damage. Our energy choices do impact our health and renewables like wind are our safest bets,” CAPE concludes.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Time for a nuclear moratorium in Ontario

Two recent articles build the case for a moratorium on further nuclear investment in Ontario.

The first, from Steve Hargreaves at CNNMoney covered the decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to stop issuing both new permits and license extensions.  Even though the spent fuel characteristics of US and Canadian are different, the same question should be raised in Canada.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The U.S. government said it will stop issuing permits for new nuclear power plants and license extensions for existing facilities until it resolves issues around storing radioactive waste.
The government's main watchdog, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, believes that current storage plans are safe and achievable. But a federal court said that the NRC didn't detail what the environmental consequences would be if the agency is wrong.

"We are now considering all available options for resolving the waste issue," the five-member NRC said in a ruling earlier this week. "But, in recognition of our duties under the law, we will not issue [reactor] licenses until the court's remand is appropriately addressed."

The second, written by Jack Gibbons (Chairman of Ontario Clean Air Alliance) and published in The Star, demonstrates that Ontario has a surplus of power and that shutting down Pickering for good would reduce Ontario electricity costs by over 5%.  The details behind this statement can be found on the OCAA website, in the report, "Ontario's Electricity Surplus - an opportunity to reduce costs".

Pretty compelling arguments.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Do wind turbines really make people ill?

Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO), a coalition of groups opposed to wind turbines, has been telling us for months that noise from wind turbines makes people ill.
They’ve even conducted a form of health survey of people near wind turbines in an attempt to prove their point; and claim that 86 out of 112 of respondents are “reporting adverse health affects due to industrial wind turbines”.
Wind Concerns Ontario tells us that the health issues caused by wind turbines are so significant and clear that there should be a moratorium on wind turbine construction and that turbines should be set back at least 1.5 kilometres from places where people live or spend significant time. 
Effectively this would end any wind development in southern Ontario where we need clean, renewable power generation. 
However, an analysis of the Wind Concerns Ontario data reveals that if those 112 people had been picked at random from the same age groups who do not live anywhere near wind turbines; they would essentially exhibit the same symptoms.
The complete analysis can be found at but the chart below compares the prevalence of the symptoms claimed by the Wind Concerns Ontario sample of 112 people with those identified for the general population.  In eight out of nine symptoms the proportion of people reporting the symptom is statistically the same as the general population.  In the other one, the WCO respondents have a higher prevalence of tinnitus.  This may be explained by the older age profile of the respondents.
Prevalence (percent of total)
WCO Survey
Population Max
Population Min
Excessive tiredness
Sleep disturbance
Hearing problems

The prevalence of symptoms in the general population is based on an extensive review of the scientific literature.  Based on recommendations by University of Toronto physician-epidemiologist, Cornelia Baines, and University of Toronto physician-medical biochemist, Andrew Baines, the comparisons were based on data reported in Statistic Canada’s Canadian National Population Health Survey, the U.S. National Health Interview Survey and over fifteen other peer reviewed journals.
The analysis establishes that Wind Concerns Ontario’s survey does not show that wind turbines make people ill. This is confirmed by  two epidemiological studies in Europe in the last seven years plus numerous academic analyses on the subject. None have found any adverse health effects from turbine noise other than annoyance that some people feel towards turbines. 
Probably annoyance can cause sleeplessness and headaches if it is intense enough but according to the Chatham-Kent public health department quoted in the Star’s editorial on August 3rd 2009, “…opposition to wind farms on the basis of potential adverse health consequences is not justified by the evidence."
Certainly Wind Concerns Ontario survey does not justify a moratorium on wind turbine construction or a change in the setbacks and the standards for wind turbines in Ontario. 

Editorial: Wind Opponents should denounce violence

This is an editorial from Friends of Wind Ontario

Wind Opponent Supports Criminal Behaviour, Threats To Workers
Friends of Wind Ontario says group has lost all credibility

The anti-wind movement in Ontario has hit an all-time low as a leaked email from a wind opponent says that “no one should be surprised with this sort of reaction”. It would be one thing if she were referring to an open house meeting that got a little loud. But she is referring to a police investigation into a death threat made to a wind energy worker in West Grey. The worker allegedly had a shotgun pointed at him and his life was threatened. And we should expect this in Ontario???

The email, which is in reference to the above news article, and was shared with us via a wind opponent who likely feels the issue has gotten out of hand, reads verbatim:

When the Ontario Provincial Government leaves no legitimate process in place to give people a meaningful say in what happens to their family, no one should be surprised with this sort of reaction.” (name deleted)

This incident is an unfortunate and criminal escalation in the bullying and intimidation tactics that developers have frequently faced for several years now as they lawfully construct wind energy projects that have been contracted by the province.

While wind energy developers have tried to have an engaging and genuine dialogue with citizens, a vocal – and increasingly abusive – minority, has set about to shut down public meetings, drown out speakers, and in some cases physically abuse proponents. I have witnessed this first-hand.

It is a sad day indeed when grown adults can’t express themselves through words and the democratic process. And unlike claims made by the small but loud wind opposition, there is significant opportunity for citizens and local governments to ask questions and offer feedback on projects. But when genuinely interested citizens show up at open house meetings they often find a few loud and aggressive anti-wind representatives doing everything in their power to ensure questions can’t be answered, let alone heard.

Developers have worked diligently to respond to questions with facts, to listen to concerns and ensure they are addressed in a timely fashion. The industry association has developed a series of Best Practices to guide the work of their members in local communities – best practices that were informed by dozens of municipal leaders and stakeholders.

Meanwhile the anti-wind groups have resorted to bullying, distortion of fact, and now this: the condoning of criminal action and threats to bodily harm.

Any credibility this group had is long gone. Let’s hope the police investigation results in charges and conviction.

Friends of Wind Ontario (FoWO) is a network of independent people from a variety of backgrounds who firmly believe in the numerous economic, environmental and social benefits of responsible wind energy for the people of Ontario. We have formed to fill the critical participatory void that exists among community engagement, municipal consultation and achievable wind power development. Through science-based, peer-reviewed research, we are committed to delivering a balanced message to all who would like to learn more on the benefits of wind energy. We are a non-profit volunteer-run organization, not affiliated with any political party, under our own direction and have not received funding from wind developers, landowners, industry/government associations, foundations or environmental groups.
Please follow us on Twitter: @FriendsofWind

Wind turbine worker threatened with gun

(Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
CBC News
July 31, 2012
West Grey Police are investigating alleged threats against a worker, who says he had a shotgun pulled on him while working on a wind turbine site northeast of London, Ont.
Police are also investigating threatening phone calls the man says he received.
Jeff Damen was doing preliminary work at the site of a proposed wind farm in the community of West Grey, near London last week when he says a red pickup truck pulled alongside his vehicle and the driver asked what he was doing.
After Damen explained the work he was doing, the driver pulled out a gun, Damen said.
"He reached over his back seat, and pulled out a shotgun, pointed it at me and stated, 'Why don't you leave us all alone? If I catch you back here again, I'm going to kill you,'" Damen said.
Damen was unable to get a licence plate number. It was covered by a folded down tailgate.
West Grey Police Const. Janet Shumaker said Damen was alone at the time of the alleged incident but the police are taking the matter seriously.
"This is the first time something like this has ever happened," Shumaker said.
Damen said he then received some cryptic phone calls Monday.
"They stated they know where I live and know what I do," he said. "That's pretty much how they left it and hung up."
The father of two, who lives in a rural area, said he has had some sleepless nights.
Bill Palmer opposes wind farms and claims the province refuses to listen to health and safety concerns. So he's not surprised tempers are flaring over wind farms.
"That's unfortunate. I mean I hate to see that happen, but it's what happens when you divide society," Palmer said.
Damen said it's not the first time he's been confronted in his field of work.
"I have encountered verbal attacks, personally to me, regarding wind, but it has never escalated to this point," he said. "This has gone to a new level of my safety, for sure."
Shumaker said police continue to investigate.